The Reality Of Married Life
J. Robinson in his book "Of Suchness" gives the
following advice on love, sex and married life. "Be careful
and discreet; it is much easier to get married than unmarried.
If you have the right mate, it’s heavenly; but if not, you
live in a twenty-four-hour daily hell that clings constantly
to you, it can be one of the most bitter things in life. Life
is indeed strange. Somehow, when you find the right one, you
know it in your heart. It is not just an infatuation of the
moment. But the powerful urges of sex drive a young person
headlong into blind acts and one cannot trust his feelings
too much. This is especially true if one drinks and get befuddled;
the most lousy slut in a dark bar can look like a Venus then,
and her charms become irresistible. Love is much more than
sex though; it is the biological foundation between a man
and a woman; love and sex get all inter-twined and mixed up."
everyday we hear people complaining about their marriages.
Very seldom do we hear stories about a happy marriage. Young
people reading romantic novels and seeing romantic films often
conclude that marriage is a bed of roses. Unfortunately, marriage
is not as sweet as one thinks. Marriage and problems are interrelated
and people must remember that when they are getting married,
they will have to face problems and responsibilities that
they had never expected or experienced hitherto. People often
think that it is a duty to get married and that marriage is
a very important event in their lives. However, in order to
ensure a successful marriage, a couple has to harmonize their
lives by minimizing whatever differences they may have between
them. Marital problems prompted a cynic to say that there
can only be a peaceful married life if the marriage is between
a blind wife and a deaf husband, for the blind wife cannot
see the faults of the husband and a deaf husband cannot hear
the nagging of his wife.
Sharing and Trust
of the major causes of marital problems is suspicion and mistrust.
Marriage is a blessing but many people make it a curse due
to lack of understanding.
husband and wife should show implicit trust for one another
and try not to have secrets between them. Secrets create suspicion,
suspicion leads to jealously, jealousy generates anger, anger
causes enmity and enmity may result in separation, suicide
or even murder.
a couple can share pain and pleasure in their day-to-day life,
they can console each other and minimize their grievances.
Thus, the wife or husband should not expect to experience
only pleasure. There will be a lot of painful, miserable experiences
that they will have to face. They must have the strong will
power to reduce their burdens and misunderstandings. Discussing
mutual problems will give them confidence to live together
with better understanding.
and woman need the comfort of each other when facing problems
and difficulties. The feelings of insecurity and unrest will
disappear and life will be more meaningful, happy and interesting
if there is someone who is willing to share another's burden.
two people are in love, they tend to show only the best aspects
of their nature and character to each other in order to project
a good impression of themselves. Love is said to be blind
and hence people in love tend to become completely oblivious
of the darker side of each other’s natures.
practice, each will try to highlight his or her sterling qualities
to the other, and being so engrossed in love, they tend to
accept each other at "face value" only. Each lover
will not disclose the darker side of his or her nature for
fear of losing the other. Any personal shortcomings are discreetly
swept under the carpet, so to speak, so as not to jeopardize
their chances of winning each other. People in love also tend
to ignore their partner's faults thinking that they will be
able to correct them after marriage, or that they can live
with these faults, that "love will conquer all."
However, after marriage, as the initial romantic mood wears
off, the true nature of each other's character will be revealed.
Then, much to the disappointment of both parties, the proverbial
veil that had so far been concealing the innermost feelings
of each partner is removed to expose the true nature of both
partners. It is then that disillusion sets in.
by itself does not subsist on fresh air and sunshine alone.
The present world is a materialistic world and in order to
meet your material needs, proper financing and budgeting is
essential. Without it, no family can live comfortably. Such
a situation aptly bears out the saying that "when poverty
knocks at the door, love flies through the window." This
does not mean that one must be rich to make a marriage work.
However, if one has the basic necessities of life provided
through a secure job and careful planning, many unnecessary
anxieties can be removed from a marriage. The discomfort of
poverty can be averted if there is complete understanding
between the couple. Both partners must understand the value
of contentment. Both must treat all problems as "our
problems" and share all the "ups" and "downs"
in the true spirit of a long-standing life partnership.
Anguttara Nikáya contains some valuable advice, which the
Buddha gave to young girls prior to their marriage. Realizing
that there could be difficulties with the new in-laws, the
girls were enjoined to give every respect to their mothers-in-law
and fathers-in-law, serving them lovingly as their own parents.
They were expected to honor and respect their husband's relatives
and friends, thus creating a congenial and happy atmosphere
in their new homes.
were also advised to study and understand their husbands’
natures, ascertain their activities, characters and temperaments,
and to be useful and cooperative at all times in their new
homes. They should be polite, kind and watchful of their husbands'
earnings and see to it that all household expenditures were
properly administered. The advice given by the Buddha more
than twenty-five centuries ago is still valid even today.
The Buddhist Concept Of Marriage
view of what has been said about "birth and suffering,"
some people have criticized Buddhism saying that is against
married life. They are wrong. The Buddha never spoke against
married life. However, he pointed out all the problems, difficulties
and worries that people would have to face when they take
on the responsibility of marriage. Just because he warned
one against problems in marriage does not mean that the Buddha
act of marriage itself implies that a person is still more
attached to the physical world and since our mental faculties
are influenced by craving, attachment and human emotions,
it is but natural that problems would arise. This happens
when we have to consider the need of others and to give in
to what others need.
deep analysis of the nature of self is important to help us
to understand the origin of our problems, worries, miseries
and how to overcome them. Here, religious advice is important
for maintaining a tranquil life. However, a man should not
become a slave to any religion. Man is not for religion--religion
is for man. That means man must know how to make use of religion
for his betterment and for his happiness in a respectable
way. Simply by following certain religious vows, precepts
or commandments with blind faith or by force, thinking that
we are duty-bound to observe them will not develop proper
important aspect of Buddhism is that the Buddha did not impose
any religious laws or commandments. The Buddha was a unique
teacher who had set out a number of disciplinary codes for
us to uphold according to our way of life. Those who follow
the precepts observe them voluntarily but not as obligatory
religious laws. It is up to us to follow the advice through
our own understanding and experience of what is good for us
and for others. Through trial and error, we will learn to
follow the advice, which will give us just peace and happiness.
should try to understand the nature of the worldly life. By
knowing that you have to face problems, you will be able to
strengthen your mind and be more prepared to face the problems
that could arise if you get married. Religion is important
to help you overcome your problems. Whatever you learned about
religious principle when you were young can be adopted to
avoid misunderstanding, disappointment and frustration. At
the same time, certain good qualities such as patience and
understanding, which we learned through religion, are important
assets to help us to lead a peaceful married life.
it is due to a lack of mutual understanding that many married
couples lead miserable lives. The result of this is that their
innocent children also have to suffer. It is better to know
how to handle your problems in order to lead a happy married
life. Religion can help you to do this.
_The Religious Dilemma_
of the causes of greatest concern among those who do not belong
to the non-Semitic religions is the problem of conversion
before marriage. While Buddhists and Hindus never demand that
a couple must belong to the same religion before a marriage
can be solemnized, many others tend to take advantage of this
tolerance. Marriage, contrary to what many romantic novels
say, does not mean the total and absolute merging of two people
to the extent that each loses his or her own identity. When
a religion demands that both partners must have the same religious
label, it denies the basic human right of an individual to
believe what he or she wants. Societies throughout history
have proved that "Unity in Diversity" is not only
possible but desirable. Out of diversity comes greater respect
and understanding. This should apply to marriage also. There
are many living examples all over the world where the husband
and wife maintain their own beliefs and yet are able to maintain
their happy married life without confronting each other.
do not oppose the existence of other religions even within
the same household. Unfortunately this generous attitude has
been exploited by unscrupulous religionists who are out to
gain converts by all means.
Buddhists must be aware of this stratagem. No self- respecting
intelligent human being who really understands what he believes
according to his own conviction should give up his beliefs
merely to satisfy the man-made demands of another religion.
Buddhists do not demand that their partners embrace Buddhism.
Neither should they surrender their own beliefs.
young people are in love, they are prepared to make many sacrifices
so long as they can get married. But after a few years, when
the real task of building a successful marriage begins, frustrations
begin to set in. When a partner who had given up his deep-seated
religious beliefs for "love" begins to regret having
done so, unnecessary misunderstandings arise. These provide
added tensions at a period when there is boredom in a marriage.
There will be quarrels. And normally, one of the main causes
of these quarrels will be the question of which religion the
children should belong to.
it is most important for one to know that if there is a process
of conversion involved, it must be based on true conviction
and not mere convenience or compulsion. Buddhists maintain
the freedom of the individual to choose. This principle should
be respected by all.
is no specific Buddhist ritual or procedure to conduct a marriage.
Buddhism recognizes the traditions and cultures practiced
by people in different countries. Hence, Buddhist religious
ceremonies differ from one country to another. In general
practice, a religious service for blessing and to give advice
to the couple is customarily performed either in the temple
or at home to give a greater significance to the marriage.
Nowadays, in many countries, besides the blessing service,
religious organizations also have been given the authority
to solemnize and register marriages together with the issuance
of legal marriage certificates.
and large, the most important point is that the couple should
be utterly sincere in their intention to cooperate with and
understand each other not only during times of happiness but
also whenever they face difficulties.
_Security, Respect And Responsibilities_
Sense of Insecurity
the past, there was no such thing as a legal registration
of marriages. A man and woman mutually decided to accept each
other as husband and wife and thereafter they lived together.
Their marriage was carried out in the presence of the community,
and separation was rare. The most Important thing was that
they developed real love and respected their mutual responsibilities.
legal registration of marriage is important today to ensure
security and to safeguard property and children. Due to the
sense of insecurity, a couple performs legal marriages to
ensure that they are legally bound not to neglect their duties
and not to ill-treat each other. Today, some couples even
draw up a legal contract on what would happen to their property
if they are divorced!
Husband and Wife
to Buddhist teaching, in a marriage, the husband can expect
the following qualities from his wife: love, attentiveness,
family obligations, faithfulness, child-care, thrift, the
provision of meals, to calm him down when he is upset, and
sweetness in everything.
return, the wife's expectation from husband is: tenderness,
courtesy, sociability, security, fairness, loyalty, honesty,
good companionship, and moral support.
from these emotional and sensual aspects, the couple will
have to take care of day-to-day living conditions, family
budget and social obligations. Thus, mutual consultations
between the husband and wife on all family problems would
help to create an atmosphere of trust and understanding in
resolving whatever issues that may arise.
_The Buddha's Advice to a Couple_
advising women about their role in married life, the Buddha
appreciated that the peace and harmony of a home rested largely
on a woman. His advice was realistic and practical when he
explained a good number of day-to-day characteristics, which
a woman should or should not cultivate. On diverse occasions,
the Buddha counseled that a wife should: a) not harbor evil
thoughts against her husband; b) not be cruel, harsh or domineering;
c) not be spendthrift but should be economical and live within
her means; d) guard and save her husband's hard-earned earnings
and property; e) always be attentive and chaste in mind and
action; f) be faithful and harbor no thought of any adulterous
acts; g) be refined in speech and polite in action; h) be
kind, industrious and hardworking; i) be thoughtful and compassionate
towards her husband, and her attitude should equate that of
a mother's love and concern for the protection of her only
son; j) be modest and respectful; k) be cool, calm and understanding--serving
not only as a wife but also as a friend and advisor when the
the days of the Buddha, other religious teachers also spoke
on the duties and obligations of a wife towards her husband
-- stressing particularly on the duty of a wife bearing an
offspring for the husband, rendering faithful service and
providing conjugal happiness.
communities are very particular about having a son in the
family. They believe that a son is necessary to perform their
funeral rites so that their after-life will be a good one.
The failure to get a son from the first wife, gives a man
the liberty to have another wife in order to get a son. Buddhism
does not support this belief. According to what the Buddha
taught about the law of Karma, one is responsible for one's
own action and its consequences. Whether a son or a daughter
is born is determined not by a father or mother but the karma
of the child. And the well being of a father or grandfather
does not depend upon the action of the son or grandson. Each
is responsible for his own actions. So, it is wrong for men
to blame their wives or for a man to feel inadequate when
a son is not born. Such Enlightened Teachings help to correct
the views of many people and naturally reduce the anxiety
of women who are unable to produce sons to perform the "rites
of the ancestors."
the duties of a wife towards the husband were laid down in
the Confucian code of discipline, it did not stress the duties
and obligations of the husband towards the wife. In the "Sigalovada
Sutta," however, the Buddha clearly mentioned the duties
of a husband towards the wife and vice versa.
Buddha, in reply to a householder as to how a husband should
minister to his wife declared that the husband should always
honor and respect his wife, by being faithful to her, by giving
her the requisite authority to manage domestic affairs and
by giving her befitting ornaments. This advice, given over
twenty-five centuries ago, still stands good for today.
the psychology of the man who tends to consider himself superior,
the Buddha made a remarkable change and uplifted the status
of a woman by a simple suggestion that a husband should honor
and respect his wife. A husband should be faithful to his
wife, which means that a husband should fulfill and maintain
his marital obligations to his wife thus sustaining the confidence
in the marital relationship in every sense of the word. The
husband, being a breadwinner, would invariably stay away from
home, hence he should entrust the domestic or household duties
to the wife who should be considered as the keeper and the
distributor of the property and the home economic-administrator.
The provision of befitting ornaments to the wife should be
symbolic of the husband's love, care and attention showered
on the wife. This symbolic practice has been carried out from
time immemorial in Buddhist communities. Unfortunately it
is in danger of dying out because of the influence of modern
the past, since the social structure of most communities was
different from that we find today, a husband and wife were
interdependent on each other. There was mutual understanding,
and the relationship was stable because each knew exactly
what his or her role was in the partnership. The "love"
that some husbands and wives try to show others by embracing
each other in public does not necessarily indicate true love
or understanding. In the past, although married couples did
not express their love or inner feeling publicly, they had
a deep even unspoken understanding and mutual respect for
ancient customs, which people had in certain countries that
the wife must sacrifice her life after her husband's death
and also the custom, which prevents a widow from remarrying,
is foreign to Buddhism. Buddhism does not regard a wife as
being inferior to a husband.
women feel that for them to concentrate on the upbringing
of the family is degrading and conservative. It is true that
in the past women had been treated very badly, but this was
due more to the ignorance on the part of men than the inherent
weakness in the concept of depending on women to bring up
have been struggling for ages to gain equality with men in
the field of education, the professions, politics and other
avenues. They are now at par with men to a great extent. The
male generally tends to be aggressive by nature and the female
more emotional. In the domestic scene, particularly in the
East, the male is more dominant as head of the family whilst
the female tends to remain as passive partner. Please remember,
"passive" here does not mean "weak." Rather
it is a positive quality of "softness" and "gentleness."
If man and woman maintain their masculine and feminine qualities
inherited from nature and recognize their respective strengths,
then, that attitude can contribute towards a congenial mutual
understanding between the sexes.
remarks: "I believe in the proper education of woman.
But I do believe that woman will not make her contribution
to the world by mimicking or running a race with man. She
can run the race, but she will not rise to the great heights
she is capable of by mimicking man. She has to be the complement
basis of all human society is the intricate relationship between
parent and child. A mother's duty is to love, care and protect
the child, even at extreme cost. This is the self-sacrificing
love that the Buddha taught. It is practical, caring and generous
and it is selfless. Buddhists are taught that parents should
care for the child as the earth cares for all the plants and
are responsible for the well-being and up bringing of their
children. If the child grows up to be a strong, healthy and
useful citizen, it is the result of parents' efforts. If the
child grows up to be a delinquent, parents must bear the responsibility.
One must not blame others or society if children go astray.
It is the duty of parent to guide children on the proper path.
child, at its most impressionable age, needs the tender love,
care and attention of parents. Without parental love and guidance,
a child will be handicapped and will find the world a bewildering
place to live in. However, showering parental love, care and
attention does not mean pandering to all the demands of the
child, reasonable or otherwise. Too much pampering would spoil
the child. The mother, in bestowing her love and care, should
also be strict and firm in handling the tantrums of a child.
Being strict and firm does not mean being harsh to the child.
Show your love, but temper it with a disciplined hand -- the
child will understand.
amongst present-day parents, parental love is sadly lacking.
The mad rush for material advancement, the liberation movements
and the aspiration for equality have resulted in many mothers
joining their husbands, spending their working hours in offices
and shops, rather than remaining at home tending to their
off-spring. The children, left to the care of relations or
paid servants, are bewildered on being denied tender motherly
love and care. The mother, feeling guilty about her lack of
attention, tries to placate the child by giving in to all
sorts of demands from the child. Such an action spoils the
child. Providing the child with all sorts of modern toys such
as tanks, machine guns, pistols, swords and such like equipment,
as an appeasement is not psychologically good.
a child with such toys is no substitute for a mother’s tender
love and affections. Devoid of parental affection and guidance,
it will not be surprising if the child subsequently grows
up to be a delinquent. Then, who is to be blamed for bringing
up a wayward child? The parents of course! The working mother,
especially after a hard day’s work in an office to be followed
by household chores, can hardly find time for the child that
is yearning for her care and attention.
who have no time for their children should not complain when
these same children have no time for them when they are old.
Parents who claim that they spend a lot of money on their
children but are too busy should not complain when their "busy"
children in turn leave them in expensive Homes for the Aged!
women work today so that the family can enjoy more material
benefits. They should seriously consider Gandhi's advice for
men to seek freedom from greed rather than freedom from need.
Of course, given today's economic set-up we cannot deny that
some mothers are forced to work. In such a case, the father
and mother must make extra sacrifices of their time to compensate
for what their children miss when they are away. If both parents
spend their non-working hours at home with their children,
there will be greater understanding between parents and children.
his discourses, the Buddha has listed certain primary duties
and functions as essential guidelines for parents to observe.
One of the primary guidelines is, by precept, practice and
action, to lead the children away from things that are evil
and through gentle persuasion, to guide them to do all that
is good for the family, for society and for the country. In
this connection, parents would have to exercise great care
in dealing with their children. It is not what the parents
profess but what they really are and do, that the child absorbs
unconsciously and lovingly. The child's entry to the world
is molded by emulating parental behavior. It follows that
good begets good and evil begets evil. Parents who spend much
time with their children will subtly transmit their characteristics
to their offspring.
Duties of Parents
is the duty of parents to see to the welfare of their children.
In fact the dutiful and loving parents shoulder the responsibilities
with pleasure. To lead children on the right path, parents
should first set the example and lead ideal lives. It is almost
impossible to expect worthy children from unworthy parents.
Apart from the Karmic tendencies children inherit from previous
births, they invariably inherit the defects and virtues of
parents too. Responsible parents should take every precaution
not to transmit undesirable tendencies to their progeny.
to the "Sigalovada Sutta," there are five duties
that should be performed by parents:
The First Duty Is To Dissuade Children From Evil
is the first school, and parents are the first teachers. Children
usually take elementary lessons in good and evil from their
parents. Careless parents directly or indirectly impart an
elementary knowledge of lying, cheating, dishonesty, slandering,
revenge, shamelessness and fearlessness for evil and immoral
activities to their children during childhood days.
should show exemplary conduct and should not transmit such
vices into their children's impressionable minds.
The Second Duty Is To Persuade Them To Do Good
are the teachers at home; teachers are the parents in school.
Both parents and teachers are responsible for the future well
being of the children, who become what they are made into.
They are, and they will be, what the adults are. They sit
at the feet of the adults during their impressionable age.
They imbibe what they impart. They follow in their footsteps.
They are influenced by their thoughts, words and deeds. As
such it is the duty of the parents to create the most congenial
atmosphere both at home and in the school.
obedience, co-operation, unity, courage, self-sacrifice, honesty,
straightforwardness, service, self-reliance, kindness, thrift,
contentment, good manners, religious zeal and other kindred
virtues should be inculcated in their juvenile minds by degrees.
Seeds so planted will eventually grow into fruit-laden trees.
The Third Duty Is To Give The Children A Good Education
decent education is the best legacy that parents can bequeath
to their children. A more valuable treasure there is not.
It is the best blessing that parents could confer on their
should be imparted to them, preferably from youth, in a religious
atmosphere. This has far-reaching effects on their lives.
The Fourth Duty Is To See That They Are Married To Suitable
is a solemn act that pertains to the whole lifetime; this
union should be one that cannot be dissolved easily. Hence,
marriage has to be viewed from every angle and in all its
aspects to the satisfaction of all parties before the wedding.
According to Buddhist culture, duty supersedes rights. Let
both parties be not adamant, but use their wise discretion
and come to an amicable settlement. Otherwise, there will
be mutual cursing and other repercussions. More often than
not the infection is transmitted to progeny as well.
The Last Duty Is To Hand Over To Them, At The Proper Time,
not only love and tend their children as long as they are
still in their custody, but also make preparations for their
future comfort and happiness. They hoard up treasures at personal
discomfort and ungrudgingly give them as a legacy to their
The Religion of Compassion
is the religion of compassion, and the parents should never
forget to present it to the children as such. The Buddha taught
the Dhamma out of compassion for the world. Parents should
practice the "Four Sublime States of Mind" taught
by the Buddha in raising their children. They are: Metta--
loving kindness or goodwill Karuna—compassion. Mudita-- sympathetic
joy. Upekkha -- equanimity or "even-mindedness"
These four states, well practiced will help parents remain
calm throughout the difficult period of child rearing.
is the right or ideal way of conduct towards living beings.
These four attitudes of mind provide the framework for all
situations arising from social contact. They are the great
removers of tension, the great peacemakers in social conflict,
the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle for existence;
levelers of social barriers, builders of harmonious communities,
awakeners of slumbering magnanimity long forgotten, revivers
of joy and hope long abandoned, promoters of human brotherhood
against the forces of egotism.
the greatest challenge that a married couple has to face is
the proper upbringing of a child. This is another aspect,
which distinguishes us from animals. While an animal does
care for its offspring with great devotion, a human parent
has a greater responsibility, which is the nurturing of the
mind. The Buddha has said that the greatest challenge a man
faces is to tame the mind. Ever since a child is born, from
infancy through adolescence to maturity, a parent is primarily
responsible for the development of a child's mind. Whether
a person becomes a useful citizen or not depends mainly on
the extent to which its mind has been developed. In Buddhism,
a good parent can practice four great virtues to sustain him
or her and to overcome the great frustrations, which are so
closely related with parenthood.
a child is yet a toddler, unable to express its needs, it
is quite prone to indulge in tantrums and crying. A parent
who practices the first virtue of loving kindness can maintain
peace within herself or himself to continue to love the child
while it is being so difficult. A child who enjoys the effects
of this loving kindness will himself learn to radiate it spontaneously.
the child becomes more mature as an adolescent, parents should
practice "karuna" or Compassion towards him. Adolescence
is a very difficult time for children. They are coming to
terms with adulthood and therefore are rebellious, with a
great deal of their anger and frustrations directed at their
parents. With the practice of Compassion, parents will understand
that this rebelliousness is a natural part of growing up and
those children do not mean to hurt their parents willfully.
A child who has enjoyed loving kindness and compassion will
himself become a better person. Having not had hate directed
at him, he will only radiate love and compassion towards others.
before he becomes an adult, a child will probably meet with
some success in examinations and other activities outside
the home. This is the time for parents to practice sympathetic
joy. Too many parents in modern society use their children
to compete with their associates. They want their children
to do well for selfish reasons; it is all because they want
others to think well of them. By practicing sympathetic joy,
a parent will rejoice in the success and happiness of his
or her child with no ulterior motive. He is happy simply because
his child is happy! A child who has been exposed to the effects
of sympathetic joy will himself become a person who does not
envy others and who is not overly competitive. Such a person
will have no room in his heart for selfishness, greed or hatred.
a child has reached adulthood and has a career and family
of his own, his parents should practice the last great virtue
of equanimity (upekkha). This is one of the most difficult
things for Asian parents to practice. It is hard for them
to allow their children to become independent in their own
right. When parents practice equanimity, they will not interfere
with the affairs of their children and not be selfish in demanding
more time and attention than the children can give. Young
adults in the modern society have many problems. An understanding
parent of a young couple should not impose extra burdens by
making unnecessary demands on them. Most importantly, elderly
parents should try not to make their married children feel
guilty by making them feel that they have neglected their
filial obligations. If parents practice equanimity they will
remain serene in their old age and thereby earn the respect
of the younger generation.
parents practice these four virtues towards their children,
the children will respond favorably and a pleasant atmosphere
will prevail at home. A home where there is loving kindness,
compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity will be a happy
home. Children who grow up under such an environment will
grow up to be understanding, compassionate, willing workers
and considerate employers. This is the greatest legacy any
parent can give to his child.
Parents in Modern Society
of the saddest things about modern society is the lack of
parental love, which children in highly industrialized countries
suffer from. When a couple gets married, they usually plan
to have a number of children. And once the child is born,
parents are morally obliged to care for him to the best of
their ability. Parents are responsible to see that a child
is not only satisfied materially; the spiritual and psychological
aspects are very important too.
provision of material comfort is of secondary importance when
compared to the provision of parental love and attention.
We know of many parents from the not-so-well-to-do families
who have brought up their children well and with plenty of
love. On the other hand, many rich families have provided
every material comfort for their children but have deprived
them of parental love. Such children will just grow up devoid
of any psychological and moral development.
mother should consider carefully whether she should continue
to be a working mother of a housewife giving all the affection
and care for the well-being of her child. (Strangely, some
modern mothers are also being trained to handle guns and other
deadly equipments when they should be cuddling their children
and training them to be good and law-abiding citizens.)
modern trend and attitude of working mothers towards their
children also tends to erode the time-honored filial piety
which children are expected to shower on their parents. The
replacement of breast-feeding by bottle-feeding could also
be another factor, which has contributed to the erosion of
the affection between mother and child. When mothers breast-feed
and cuddle babies in their arms, the tender affection between
mother and child is much greater and the influence the mother
had on the child for its well-being, is much more pronounced.
Under such circumstances, filial piety, family cohesion and
obedience are invariably present. These traditional traits
are for the good and well-being of the child. It is up to
the parents, especially the mother, to provide them. The mother
is responsible for the child's being good or wayward. Mothers
can reduce delinquency!
parents try to keep their married children under their control.
They do not give due freedom to them and tend to interfere
with a young married couple's life. When parents try to control
their married son or married daughter and want them to follow
their way of life strictly, this will create a lot of misunderstanding
between the two generations as well as unhappiness between
the couple. Parents may be doing it in good faith due to love
and attachment towards the children, but in so doing, they
are inviting more problems to themselves and to the children.
must allow their children to shoulder the responsibilities
of their own lives and families. For example: if some seeds
are dropped under a tree, plants might grow after sometime.
But if you want those plants to grow healthy and independent
you must transplant them to open ground somewhere else to
grow separately, so that they are not hampered by the shade
of the parent tree.
should not neglect the ancient wisdom based on advice given
by religious teachers, wise people and elders who have developed
knowledge of the world through their own trial and errors.
is a controversial issue among the followers of different
religions. Some people believe that marriage is already recorded
in heaven, thus it is not right to grant a divorce. But, if
a husband and wife really cannot live together, instead of
leading a miserable life and harboring more jealousy, anger
and hatred, they should have the liberty to separate and live
Responsibility Towards the Children
the separation of the couple must be done in an atmosphere
of understanding by adopting reasonable solutions and not
by creating more hatred. If a couple has children, they should
try to make the divorce less traumatic for the children and
help them to adjust to the new situation. And it is most important
to ensure that their future and welfare will be taken care
of. It is an inhuman attitude if the couple deserts their
children and allows them to lead a miserable life.
The Buddhist View
Buddhism, there is no law stating that a husband and wife
should not be separated if they cannot live together harmoniously.
But, if people follow the advice given by the Buddha to fulfill
their duties towards each other, then, such unfortunate occurrences
like divorce or separation will never happen in the first
the past, where religious values were highly respected, there
were greater efforts on the part of married couples -- in
the east as well as in west --to reach an amicable understanding
to develop happy relationships based on respect, love, and
regard for one another. Couples developed and made their marriages
an important feature, which they cherished in their hearts.
Divorce cases were very rare, and were considered a disgrace
because they indicated the selfishness of one party or the
other. It is a fact that until recently divorce cases were
still rather rare in Buddhist countries. This is mainly because
couples considered their duties and obligations towards each
other, and also basically because divorce was not approved
by the community as a whole. In many cases, when married couples
were in trouble, the community elders usually rallied round
and played an important role to improve the situation.
in the modern society of today, divorce has become such a
common practice. In certain countries it has even become fashionable.
Instead of regarding divorce as shameful or a failure to order
their lives, some young couples seem to be proud of it. The
main cause of the failure in marriage in modern society is
the abuse of freedom and too much independence and individualism
on the part of the partners. There must be a limit to their
independent lives, or else both husband and wife will go astray
Polygamy Or Monogamy
the question of whether Buddhists can keep more than one wife,
the direct answer is not available in the Buddha's teaching,
because as mentioned earlier, the Buddha did not lay down
any religious laws with regard to married life although he
has given valuable advice on how to lead a respectable married
culture and the way of life as recognized by the majority
of a particular country must also be considered when we practice
certain things pertaining to our lives. Some religions say
that a man can have only one wife whilst others say a man
can have more than one wife.
the Buddha did not mention anything regarding the number of
wives a man could have, he explicitly mentioned in His discourses
that should a married man go to another woman out of wedlock,
that could become the cause of his own downfall and he would
have to face numerous other problems and disturbances.
Buddha's way of teaching is just to explain the situation
and the consequences. People can think for themselves as to
why certain things are good and certain things are bad. The
Buddha did not lay down rules about how many wives a man should
or should not have which people are forced to follow. However,
if the laws of a country stipulate that marriages must be
monogamous, then such laws must be complied with, because
the Buddha was explicit about His followers respecting the
laws of a country, if those laws were beneficial to all.
religions are not in favor of family planning. They say it
is against the will of God. Buddhism does not interfere in
this personal choice. Man is at liberty to follow any method
in order to prevent conception. According to Buddhism, certain
physical and mental conditions must be present for conception
to take place. When any one of these conditions is absent
(as when family planning is being practiced), no conception
takes place; therefore a life does not come into being. But
after conception, abortion is NOT acceptable in Buddhism because
it means taking away a life that is already present in the
form of fetus.
people are interested in the moral implication or religious
attitude with regard to test-tube babies. If a woman is unable
to conceive a baby in the normal way, and if she is anxious
to have a baby by adopting modern medical methods, there is
no ground in Buddhism to say that it is either immoral or
irreligious. Religions must give due credit to man's intelligence
and to accommodate new medical discoveries if they are harmless
and beneficial to mankind. As was mentioned earlier, so long
as the conditions are right, conception can be allowed to
take place, naturally or artificially.
sex is a problem, which is much discussed, in modern society.
Many young people would like to know the opinion regarding
this sensitive issue. Some religionists say it can be considered
as committing adultery, while others say it is immoral and
the past, young boys and girls were not allowed by their parents
to move around freely until they were married. Their marriages
were also arranged and organized by the parents. Of course,
this did cause unhappiness in some cases when parents chose
partners on the basis of money, social status, family obligations
and related issues. But generally, the majority of parents
did try very hard to choose partners who would be acceptable
to their children.
young people are at the liberty to go out and find their own
partners. They have a lot of freedom and independence in their
lives. This is not a bad thing in itself, but some of these
people are just too young and too immature to see the difference
between sexual attraction and true compatibility. That is
why the problem of pre- marital sex arises.
much laxity in matters concerning sex has also given rise
to social problems in modern society. The sad part is that
some societies do not express liberal attitudes towards unmarried
mothers, illegitimate children and the divorcees while they
are quite liberal about free sex. As a result, young people
are being punished by the same society, which encourages free
mixing of the sexes. They become social outcasts and suffer
much shame and humiliation. Many young girls have become victims
of their own freedom and have ruined their future by violating
age-old traditions, which were valued in the east as well
as in the west.
sex is a modern development, which has come about as a result
of excessive social freedom prevalent amongst present day
young people. Whilst Buddhism holds no strong views either
for or against such action, it is thought that all Buddhists,
particularly people of both sexes in love and contemplating
marriage, should adhere to the age-old traditional concept
that they maintain chastity until the nuptial date. The human
mind is unstable and forever changing, with the result that
any illicit action or indiscretion may cause undue harm to
either party if the legal marriage does not take place as
expected. It must be remembered that any form of sexual indulgence
before a proper marriage is solemnized will be looked down
upon by the elders who are the guardians of the young people.
are advised in the Buddha's Teaching to avoid sexual misconduct.
That means, if one wants to experience sex, he must do so
without creating any violence or by using any kind of force,
threat or causing fear. A decent sex life, which respects
the other partner, is not against this religion; it accepts
the fact that it is a necessity for those who are not yet
ready to renounce the worldly life.
to Buddhism, those who are involved in extra-marital sex with
someone who is already married, who has been betrothed to
someone else, and also with those who are under the protection
of their parents or guardians are said to be guilty of sexual
misconduct, because there is a rupture of social norms, where
a third party is being made to suffer as a result of the selfishness
of one or the other partner.
Irresponsible Sexual Behavior
Buddha also mentioned the consequences that an elderly man
would have to face if he married without considering the compatibility
of age of the other party. According to the Buddha, irresponsible
sexual behavior can become the cause of one's downfall in
many aspects of life.
the nations of the world have clearly defined laws concerning
the abuse of sex. Here again, Buddhism advocates that a person
must respect and obey the law of the country if the laws are
made for the common good.
The East And The West
following are extracts from a book by the celebrated Japanese
author, Dr. Nikkyo Niwano. In his book "The Richer Life,"
Dr. Niwano deals with matters relating to love and marriage,
both from the Eastern and Western points of view.
the West, marriage on the basis of romantic love has often
been considered natural and sometimes ideal. In Asia, in recent
years, the number of young people who abandon the traditional
arranged marriage and select partners out of romantic consideration
has been growing. But in some cases, romantic marriages lead
to separation and unhappiness within a short time, whereas
the arranged marriage often produces a couple who live and
work together in contentment and happiness. In spite of its
emotional appeal, all romantic marriages cannot be called
unqualified successes. Romantic love is like the bright flame
of a wood-fire that leaps up and burns clear, but lasts only
a short time. Love between man and wife burns quietly and
slowly like the warming fire of burning coal. Of course, bright
flaming Love can -- and ideally ought to--eventually become
the calm, enduring fire of mature affection. But too often
the flame of romantic love is quickly extinguished, leaving
nothing but ashes, which are a poor foundation for a successful
people in love think of nothing but their emotions. They see
themselves only in the light of the feeling of the moment.
they think and do is romantic and has little bearing on the
practical affairs of the life they must lead after marriage.
If the lovers are fortunate enough to have compatible personalities,
to have sound and similar ideas about life, to share interests,
to enjoy harmonious family relations on both sides and to
be financially secure even after the first passion has calmed
down, they will still have a basis for a good life together.
If they are not so blessed, they may face marital failure."
the time of dates, emotional pictures, dances, and parties
has passed, the young married couples will have to live together,
share meals, and reveal to each other their defects as well
as their merits. They will have to spend more than half of
their life each day together; this kind of living makes demands
that are different from the less exacting needs of dating
and first love."
relations become very important in married life. It is necessary
to think about the personalities of the mother and father
of the prospective marriage partner. Young people sometimes
think that the strength of their love will enable them to
get along well with the most quarrelsome, difficult in-laws;
but this is not always true. In short, romance is a matter
of a limited time and does not become rooted in actualities
and must be regulated to conform to the needs of work and
environment in order to bind the couple together in lasting
devotion. The two kinds of love are different. To mistake
one for the other invites grave trouble."
serious, dispassionate thought to the nature of the person
one contemplates marrying, lessens the likelihood of failure.
To prevent romance from vanishing after marriage, mutual understanding
between the couple is indispensable. But the percentage of
successful marriages is higher among young people whose choice
of a partner agrees with the opinions of their parents. To
live peacefully, it is necessary to realize the difference
between romance and married love."
What is Celibacy?
is refraining from the pleasure of sexual activity. Some critics
of Buddhism say that The Teaching goes against Nature and
they claim that sex life is natural and therefore necessary.
is not against sex; it is a natural sensual pleasure and very
much a part of the worldly life. One may ask, why then did
the Buddha advocate celibacy as a precept? Is it not unfair
and against Nature? Well, the observance of celibacy for spiritual
development was not a new religious precept at the time of
the Buddha. All the other existing religions in India at that
time also had introduced this practice. Even today, some other
religionists like the Hindus and Catholics do observe this
as a vow.
who have renounced the worldly life voluntarily observe this
precept because they are fully aware of the commitments and
disturbances, which come along if one commits oneself to the
life of a family person. The married life can affect or curtail
spiritual development when craving for sex and attachment
occupies the mind and temptation eclipses the peace and purity
of the mind.
Significance of Celibacy
tend to ask, "If the Buddha did not preach against married
life, why then did He advocate celibacy as one of the important
precepts to be observed and why did He advise people to avoid
sex and renounce the worldly life?"
must remember that renunciation is not compulsory in Buddhism.
It is not obligatory to renounce the worldly life totally
in order to practice Buddhism. You can adjust your way of
life according to your understanding by practicing certain
religious principles and qualities. You can develop your religious
principles according to the needs of a lay life. However,
when you have progressed and attained greater wisdom and realize
that the layman's way of life is not conducive for the ultimate
development of spiritual values and purification of the mind,
you may choose to renounce the worldly life and concentrate
more on spiritual development.
Buddha recommended celibacy because sex and marriage are not
conducive to ultimate peace and purity of the mind, and renunciation
is necessary if one wishes to gain spiritual development and
perfection at the highest level. But this renunciation should
come naturally, and must never be forced. Renunciation should
come through a complete understanding of the illusory nature
of the self, of the unsatisfactory nature of all sense pleasures.
Celibacy versus Responsibility -- The Buddha's Experience
Buddha experienced his worldly life as a prince, husband and
a father before his Renunciation and he knew what married
life entailed. People may question the Buddha's renunciation
by saying that he was selfish and cruel and that it was not
fair for him to desert his wife and child. In actual fact,
the Buddha did not desert his family without a sense of responsibility.
never had any misunderstanding with his wife. He too had the
same love and attachment towards his wife and child as any
normal man would have, perhaps even greater. The difference
was that his love was not mere physical and selfish love;
he had the courage and understanding to detach that emotional
and selfish love for a good cause. His sacrifice is considered
all the more noble because he set aside his personal needs
and desires in order to serve all of mankind for all time.
main aim of his renunciation was not only for his own happiness,
peace or salvation but for the sake of mankind. Had he remained
in the royal palace, his service would have been confined
to only his own family or his kingdom. That was why he decided
to renounce everything m order to maintain peace and purity
to gain Enlightenment and then to enlighten others who were
suffering in ignorance. One of the Buddha's earliest tasks
after gaining his Enlightenment was to return to his palace
to enlighten the members of his family. In fact, when his
young son, Rahula asked the Buddha for his inheritance, the
Buddha said that Rahula was heir to the richest wealth, the
treasure of the Dhamma. In this way, the Buddha served his
family, and he paved the way for their salvation, peace and
happiness. Therefore, no one can say that the Buddha was a
cruel or selfish father. He was in fact more compassionate
and self-sacrificing than anybody else. With his high degree
of spiritual development, the Buddha knew that marriage was
a temporary phase while Enlightenment was eternal and for
the good of all mankind.
important fact was that the Buddha knew that his wife and
son would not starve in his absence. During the time of the
Buddha it was considered quite normal and honorable for a
young man to retire from the life of a householder. Other
members of the family would willingly look after his dependents.
When he gained his enlightenment, he was able to give them
something no other father could give -- the freedom from slavery
is a partnership of two individuals and this partnership is
enriched and enhanced when it allows the personalities involved
to grow. Many marriages fail because one partner tries to
"swallow" another or when one demands total freedom.
According to Buddhism, marriage means understanding and respecting
each other's belief and privacy. A successful marriage is
always a two-way path: "humpy, bumpy" -- it is difficult
but it is always a mutual path.
people in this country and elsewhere sometimes think that
"old fashioned ideas" are not relevant to modern
society. They should be reminded that there are some eternal
truths, which can never become out-of-date. What was true
during the time of Buddha still remains true today.
so-called modern ideas we receive through the highly glamorous
television programs do not represent the way most decent people
in the west think or behave. There is a vast "silent
majority" of decent couples who are as deeply religious
and "conservative" about marriage as any Eastern
couple. They do not behave in the manner that the mass media
has portrayed them. Not all the people in the west run off
to get a divorce or abortion after their first quarrel or
people all over the world are the same; they are unselfish
and care deeply about those whom they love. They make enormous
sacrifices and develop love and understanding to ensure happy
and stable marriages. So, if you want to ape the west ape
the "silent majority": they are no different from
your decent neighbor who lives next door to you.
people must also listen to their elders because their own
understanding about married life is not mature. They should
not make hasty conclusions regarding, marriages and divorces.
They must have a lot of patience, tolerance and mutual understanding.
Otherwise, their life can become very miserable and problematic.
Patience, tolerance and understanding are important disciplines
to be observed and practiced by all people in marriage.
feeling of security and contentment comes from mutual understanding,
which is the secret of a happy married life.
The Affectionate Mother
the Buddhist Jataka story -- Sonadanda, the Bodhisattva sings
the virtues of a mother in the following strain: Kind, Pitiful,
our refuge she that fed us at her breast. A mother is the
way to heaven, and thee she loveth best.
nursed and fostered us with care; graced with good gifts is
mother is the way to heaven, and best she loveth thee.
a child in prayer she kneels each holy shrine before.
changing season closely scans and studies astral lore.
in course of time she feels her tender longings grow, and
soon the unconscious babe begins a loving friend to know.
treasure for a year or less she guards with utmost care, Then
brings it forth and from that day a mother's name will bear.
milky breast and lullaby she soothes the fretting child, Wrapped
in his comforter's warm arms his woes are soon beguiled.
o'er him, poor innocent, lest wind or hear annoy, His fostering
nurse she may be called, to cherish thus her boy.
gear his sire and mother have she hoards for him "May
be," She thinks, "Some day, my dearest child, it
all may come to thee."
this or that, my darling boy," the worried mother cries,
And when he is grown to man's estate, she still laments and
sighs, He goes in reckless mood to see a neighbor's wife at
night, She fumes and frets, "Why will he not return while
it is light?"
one thus reared with anxious pains his mother should neglect,
playing her false, what doom, I pray, but hell can he expect?
that love wealth o'er much, 'tis said, their wealth will soon
that neglects a mother soon will rue it to his cost. Those
that love wealth o'er much, 'tis said, their wealth will soon
be lost. One that neglects a father soon will rue it to his
loving speech, kind offices together with the grace of calm
indifference of mind shown in time and place --These virtues
to the world are as linchpin to chariot wheel. These lacking,
still a mother's name to children would appeal. A mother like
the sire should with reverent honor be crowned, Sages approve
the man in whom those virtues may be found.
parents worthy of all praise, a high position own, by ancient
sages Brahma called. So great was their renown.
parents from their children should receive all reverence due,
He that is wise will honor them with service good and true.
should provide them food and drink, bedding and raiment meet,
Should bathe them and anoint with oil and duly wash their
feet. So filial services like these sages his praises sound.
Here in this world, and after death in heaven his joys bound.
Jataka translation Vol. V pp. 173, 174
Social and Moral Code
most important element of the Buddhist reform has always been
its social and moral code. That moral code taken by itself
is one of the most perfect which the world has ever known.
On this point all testimonials from hostile and friendly quarters
agree; philosophers there may have been, religious preachers,
subtle metaphysicists, disputants there may have been, but
where shall we find such an incarnation of love, love that
knows no distinction of caste and creed or color, a love that
overflowed even the bounds of humanity, that embraced the
whole of sentient beings in its sweep, a love that embodied
as the gospel of universal "Maitri" and "Ahimsa."
-- Prof. Max Muller, A German Buddhist Scholar
Morality Is Based On Freedom
morality is based on freedom, i.e., on individual development.
It is therefore relative. In fact there cannot be any ethical
principle if there is compulsion or determination from an
agent outside ourselves.
B. Govinda, A German Buddhist Scholar
Knowledge and Morality
Buddhism there can be no real morality without knowledge,
no real knowledge without morality; both are bound up together
like heat and light in a flame. What constitutes "Bodhi"
is not mere intellectual, enlightenment, but humanity. The
consciousness of moral excellence is of the very essence of